Soul Care for Worship Leaders

Pope Francis recently said: ““See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.” This apparently was a favorite phrase of Pope John XXIII as well.

Interestingly enough, I had a very similar sentiment when it came to being a worship pastor and leading bands and choirs for 20 years. It would always surprise volunteer musicians to find out how much I “heard.” This is one of my greatest strengths as a musician and a pastor: I like to listen.

Often I would be asked why I didn’t correct something I heard. My response was that in the grand scheme of things it simply wasn’t worth it. After all, if I continually told others every single mistake I heard, I wouldn’t have any musicians left to work with. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing about the little things and focus on encouraging instead.

Correcting the big things

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s been to develop balance in this important leadership skill. “Correcting a little” is an important tool, to be sure, and it must be employed without fear of man (or temperamental musician). If we are more driven by being “liked,” we may be afraid to address serious issues.

Don’t follow my example

I remember a particular season of ministry when, spiritually speaking, I was not in a healthy place. In the midst of that season, I was frustrated with a particular musician who clearly wasn’t prepared for our weekly rehearsals. It would be one thing if the musician was good enough to step in and nail the song without ever hearing it, but this was not the case. After several weeks of being frustrated, I knew I should address the situation in private, but I was too fearful of having the “uncomfortable conversation.”

What happened next was way more ugly.

I made a big leadership mistake when, in the middle of a mid-week rehearsal, I stopped the song and asked the musician point-blank: “Did you practice this week at all?”

The rehearsal and weekend service went on, but I lost a musician and a friend. They never played with our worship team again.

Learn from my mistakes

You’ve heard it said, “Always praise in public and criticize in private.” If you want to lead a team built on trust and respect, a team of friends who love being together, a team dedicated to giving their best for the glory of God, then honor them by carefully choosing when, where, and how you will address serious issues.

Soul Care Matters!

How do we know the things we should address and the things we should let go? How do we check our spirit to make sure we aren’t leading out of fear, power, or control?

If we keep doing the same things year after year and expect different results, we are operating in insanity. I’m speaking primarily of our spiritual formation, although the same is true of our musical development.

What’s your weekly rhythm like? Are you living Sunday to Sunday? When are you building time into your schedule for silence and solitude?

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

Jesus knew the importance of getting up early in the morning and withdrawing from the presence of others in order to be present with his Heavenly Father. More often than not, we worship leaders allow the praise of others and the allure of the crowds to drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit. Before too long, the priorities of God are no longer our priorities.

We have to decide, before it’s too late, that we are going to adopt a rhythm of life that resembles the “way” of Jesus, not the way of the world. His was a rhythm of engagement and disengagement. Jesus engaged with the crowds and ministered out of the center of God’s will, then he disengaged in order to cultivate a listening and obedient heart.

Take it or leave it

• Always remember you are dealing with people, not objects. When you take time to pray and listen, you’ll hear how to address certain situations. You may very well need to address someone privately in order to help them see how they are not being very loving to others. Whatever the issue, commit to loving the people God has placed in your care.

• Don’t let the week go by without developing a plan for silence and solitude. You need a healthy rhythm for the sake of your soul. Out of that time-well-spent, you will be able to discern and believe the voice of the Father. Regardless of your greatest achievement, or your most embarrassing failure, he calls you “Beloved.” Now live like it!

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